The young man flinched, and then slowly lifted his hand and wiped spittle from his face.  He looked at Lianna, catching her gaze with pale green eyes and said nothing.  Words died in her throat as she saw the green of his irises bleed outwards until all the white of his eye had turned green as well and the pupil had shrunk to a pinpoint of blackness.  Suddenly aware of the silence, she made herself look away and round the room to see that most of the other patrons were now sitting watching her, waiting to see what she'd do next.

"Machiabus's belt," she repeated, and then realising that she no longer sounded angry, "MACHIABUS'S BELT!  You were sent by my wretched, ill-begotten orc-spawn of a brother, weren't you?"  She turned again, this time rounding on the room and glaring out at her audience.  "This is going to be private," she said, her voice grating like raw turnip being shredded.  She sat back down, and waited till the hubbub of people pretending that they weren't interested in what she was doing had risen to a plausible level.

"I have no brother," she said in a low voice, leaning across the table to where the young man still sat, his eyes now returned to normal.  "And I've never met one of your kind before, so you have five minutes to persuade me that you being here is all an accident and you'll be going on your way when you've finished your drink."

"My name is Amiamo," said the young man.  He paused as the urchin came to the table, shaking so much that he was slopping Lianna's red beer over the edges of the tankard.  "Put it there, and bring me Applejack," he said.  The urchin set the tankard down absurdly carefully and scampered away again.  "Our meeting isn't an accident exactly, but this isn't what I'd planned.  I was supposed to meet you tomorrow and give you a message."

Lianna frowned.  "I don't know anyone who would know an Epimeliad.  What message is this?"

"Venne says hello."

Lianna leant back in her chair.  The urchin re-appeared and laid a clay cup filled with Applejack on the table and disappeared again, clearly unwilling to stay anywhere near Lianna and Amiamo.  Amiamo picked up the cup and sipped it, his eyes watching Lianna relentlessly.

"I know Venne," she said at last.  "I don't know why I should believe you, or what you think that message should signify."

"If you admitted to knowing Venne, I was told I could show you this."  Amiamo lifted himself in his seat slightly to wrestle a small square of parchment out of a back pocket.  He passed it to Lianna, who turned it over.  On it was a drawing, a circle with three distinct chords regularly spaced around it and their midpoints joined to the centre.  She controlled herself instantly, sure that no emotion was showing on her face.  The symbol was the same one engraved at the base of her Frostbane sword and was used to mark all Frostguard armour and armory.  She passed the parchment back.

"Venna collects the oddest of trinkets," she said calmly.  "I don't think I have much use for this though."  She seemed to be about to dismiss Amiamo, and then she said, it sounding like an afterthought, "Where is Venne anyway?  It's been a while since I've spoken to him."

"I can show you," said Amiamo.  "That's why I was supposed to be meeting you tomorrow.  Venne wants to show you something connected with that piece of parchment."

"Bah, that parchment means nothing to me," said Lianna picking her own drink up again.  "Does it mean anything to you?"

"It's engraved on the sword you keep hidden," said Amiamo.

The End

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